By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
Like many aspiring writers, I turn to the works of some of the most brilliant writers of our time for inspiration. I also turn to some of the worst writers of our time for inspiration — or at least for consolation, knowing that my writing couldn’t be any worse.
Every year I get a kick out of reading the winning entries in the World’s Worst Writer Fiction Awards. Surprise though, these bad pieces of writing are not as easy to compose as they look. And they’re often more entertaining than intellectual kinds of writing.
One of the winning entries, written by a Microsoft worker, begins like this:
“It was a dark and sultry, mildewed, shirtless night…”
This reminds me of the series of Peanuts strips in which Snoopy was seen on the roof of his doghouse with a typewriter and never could get past the first line of his promising novel, “It was a dark and stormy night …”
A writer can go anywhere with this classic storybook opener. I tried my own. It goes like this:
“It was a dark and supposed to be stormy, but the weatherman was wrong again, night, with not a cloud in the sky, unless you count the funny, cloud-looking thing that produced a foul odor in the northern edge of town by the dairy, not a real cloud, but even if it was, here in the South Plains, we wouldn’t be talking about a “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” kind of storm, but more of a “By golly Betsy, is that another one of them there dirt devils” kind of effect that would blow a few gate doors open, maybe set a few cows loose, but still produce enough excitement to get the tornado chasers jumping into their four-by-fours.”
I know that’s a long and windy paragraph, but just read some of the winning entries in the Worst Writing contest from this year and year’s past. They had me laughing all the way.
Here’s the 2002 winner:
“On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained …” (By Rephah Berg).
Here’s a few examples from the 25th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a literary parody competition sponsored by San Jose State University:
“Danny, the little grizzly cub, frolicked in the grass on this sunny spring morning, his mother keeping a watchful eye as she chewed on a piece of hiker they had encountered the day before.” (By Dave McKenzie, Federal Way, Wash.)
“The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, not even a sharp knife, but a dull one from that set of cheap knives you received as a wedding gift in a faux wooden block; the one you told yourself you’d replace, but in the end, forgot about because your husband ran off with another man, that kind of knife.” (By Lisa Lindquist, Jackson, Miss.)
“As her quivering lips met his, and her eyelashes fluttered softly on his sweating cheek, Dr. Robbins reflected, ‘I didn’t realize she had upper dentures … in fact, her slippery plastic palate reminds me of going down a waterslide that hasn’t been properly chlorinated, as evidenced by the distinct nitrous and sulfurous emanations, or could it be sinus trouble?’” (Philip Bateman, Kenilworth, South Africa)
Here’s another 2007 Worst Writer winner:
“She walked toward him, her dress billowing in the wind — not a calm and predictable billow like the sea, but more like the billowing of a mildewed shower curtain in a cheap motel where one has to dance around to avoid touching it while trying to rinse off soap …” (By Dan McKay)
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: